Last edit: 10/28/15

Re: Travel Air Purifier for Hotel/Motel Rooms

A Reader writes:

Howdy Ed!

What would you recommend for travel?

I have been looking over your site, and maybe I have missed it, but what do you recommend for staying in hotel rooms?

I would like something that can be in my checked luggage on a flight so small and lightweight are important.

On your recommendation I now have 3 IQAirs and don't mind paying more if it really is worth it.

I don't have MCS but would like something that cleans the air as much as possible for a small size.

Thanks in advance.

A Traveler.

Ed's Reply

Hey Traveler;

You have posed just about the toughest question I get, because hotel and motel air quality has more in common with industrial air than residential.

Adding the requirement that the purifier must fit in checked airline luggage narrows the prospects considerably.

Most airlines impose limits on size, with the bag's three-dimensions totaling under 50 inches, which leaves out most room air purifiers.

Some may allow another parcel, but will impose excess baggage fees.

Heartbreak Hotel

Hotel management and the majority of guests will evaluate a room’s suitability by appearances.

While a poorly maintained room is a sure sign of trouble, even spotless upscale hotel rooms can have poor air quality.

Nearly one quarter of guests will complain of poor air quality, but seldom get relief.

A survey financed by Kimberly-Clark Filtration Products found that over 60% of frequent travelers expressed concerns about hotel air quality.

Tripadvisor.com and other hotel/motel review sites have lots of one-star reviews by travelers dissatisfied with their room's indoor air.

But the hospitality industry has been glacially slow to respond, with insufficient attention to what should always have been a critical aspect of their product.

The general public eats, drinks, smokes, entertains, parties all night, gets sick, and keeps pets in hotel and motel rooms.

After each occupancy, everything in the hotel room must be cleaned.

But washing linens and vacuuming carpets does not remove airborne particulate or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which may be introduced by the hotel's own housekeeping practices.

Tobacco toxins persist in rental accommodations, long after the smoker, perhaps a stealth user, checks out.

Contrary to popular belief, switching to no-smoking rooms was a cost-cutter for hotel management.

Smoke imposed an extra expense, with furniture, bedding, carpets, and linens having shorter lives and needing extra maintenance.

So many less expensive motels just threw up "no smoking signs," some even leaving the ashtrays.

But hospitality industry management knows "time is money," and hotel housekeeping is a time and motion study engineering nightmare.

Industry journals have asked whether additional money invested in indoor air will show up on the bottom line.

Chemical Dependency

Hotels have long relied on inexpensive "cleaning" products that contain everything from nitrilotriacetic acid to artificial fragrances intended to mask odors.

Management may have bigger fires to fight, like a bedbug infestation, which imply additional pest management chemicals.

Marketing studies show that travelers want "clean smelling" bedding, which to the average person means scented.

Better hotels will deploy ozone shock treatments to oxidize odors and kill microorganisms, but issues remain, especially the airborne particulates.

The hotel business has gone through 20 years of cost cutting in energy use, which has resulted in sealed rooms without user controlled ventilation.

Fresh air exchange is expensive, and measured in dollars per cubic foot per year brought into the building and filtered.

Without adequate ventilation, carbon dioxide accumulates, which no air cleaner can remove.

Travelers often come in from the carbon monoxide concentrations of the highway, or from an aircraft cabin pressurized to 10,000 feet altitude.

Many hotel guests are already oxygen-deficient when they check in.

Most folks will walk into the hotel room, drop their luggage and go to the window to look at the view.

Few will notice that almost every hotel's windows are locked shut.

Air conditioning maintenance is among the first casualties of distressed accommodations, allowing mold growth.

Some hotel chains are designating allergy friendly rooms, and third party contractor companies are coming to market with room makeover solutions.

See www.pureroom.com.

Hotel directory FreshStay.com lists hotels with a policy of 100% smoke-free rooms.

Shake Down

After over 50 years of fighting the hotel environmental quality dragon, I have a shake-down technique which works for me.

I have stayed in rooms costing from $25 to $400 a night, and price does not seem to guarantee environmental quality.

Of course, this checklist is not practical for everybody, but the first principle of indoor air is "control the source before installing the air purifier."

Being real picky about the chosen property is the first step in securing a comfortable night while traveling.

I travel only by car, which allows me to inspect the area around the prospective accommodation for lights, noise sources, and pollutant emissions.

Nowadays, I plan trips using online maps and reviews, focusing on the area with satellite overheads to look for industrial and transport infrastructure to avoid.

Once I checked into a west coast seaside motel which sat next to a beautiful beach and yacht harbor.

As night fell, I congratulated myself on the great find, wondering why few other tourists seemed to be checking in.

Until the harbor's foghorn, about 100 yards away, started blaring every three minutes and forty seconds (yes, I counted, until 03:15 when I left without a wink of sleep).

The same experience has been repeated in many upscale rooms, for instance where management graciously extended pool hours until 1:00 AM, (and I paid fifty bucks extra for a poolside room that was brightly lit with lovely psychedelic blue-green patterns dancing on the ceiling).

Even if I have a reservation, I case the joint like a cat burglar, walking the halls and lobby before approaching the desk.

If I smell smoke, odors, and especially fragrances, I'm headed for the exit.

I will ask to see the room before signing in, and carry my Dylos DC 1100 .5 micron laser particle monitor (small enough for air travel, highly recommended), as well as sniffing everything.

My first requirement is windows that actually open, preferably into green space.

User controllable ventilation options on the AC console are next, many are now computer controlled to prevent guests from choosing outside air.

I will also check my laptop to see how many WiFi networks are in range, these keep me awake with high frequency EMF emissions.

Upon check in, the first thing I do is ventilate the room.

The majority of the time in a hotel is spent in bed, so after checking for fragrance emissions from hotel-provided bath supplies (find nearest dumpster), I start on the bed.

I carry my own cotton quilts and pillows, using the hotel's linens to black out the windows to assure maximum melatonin (the sleep hormone) production.

After setting up my Dylos particle monitor, I put an air purifier right on the bed.

Later, as particle counts fall, air purifiers may be moved further away from the bed, as noise and EMF signature permit.

Travel Air Purifiers

Unfortunately, an airline travel air purifier is a true oxymoron, it doesn't really exist.

The ideal travel air cleaner for a hotel room would have very strong airflow (to quickly clear the room) evidenced by a good CADR certification.

It would also be compact and light, with a cord long enough to place it anywhere in a strange room.

A big true HEPA filter and pounds of activated carbon to interdict chemicals, and, for this application, a UV lamp to suppress infectious microorganisms, would be nice.

But fitting all this on a flight is of course impractical.

I carry my old Sharp Plasmacluster air purifier in my car's trunk, and sometimes up three flights of stairs.

A plethora of products are marketed as "travel air purifiers."

The majority of these are small battery-powered personal ionizers, which I don't endorse.

We're going to have to judge our hotel room air purifier by different standards if we expect it to fit in an aircraft's baggage compartment.

Aireox 45-D

One possibility is the Aireox Research 45D portable air purifier.

Aireoxes do not have true HEPA filtration, but come close, collecting particles to .5 micron.

Aireox offers two sizes of mini-purifiers.

The smaller Aireox, the D22, has two pounds of carbon and proprietary "Purafil" to capture the inevitable vapor phase pollutants in the hotel room.

D22 is small, measuring 6 inches high by 10 inches in diameter.

Aireox D22 is designed for 12 Volt power, like automotive cigarette lighters, and requires an optional converter for in-room use.

The smaller Aireox makes 75 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow, a bit weak for the hotel room air challenge.

A larger Aireox, the 45D, blows a stronger 125 CFM, and measures 10 by 14 inches, about the limit for the carry-on bag, and weighs 12 pounds.

Aireox is a premium air purifier, built without out-gassing, ozone, plastic smells, and backed by good customer service.

You can view both Aireoxes:

Aireox 45-D at Amazon.com.

Amaircare 1100

Another manufacturer, Amaircare, also makes two sizes of travel air purifiers.

These are made in Canada.

Amaircare's Roomaid is compact, at 8.5 by 12 inches and six pounds, but blows only about 40 cubic feet per minute on high.

Amaircare 1100 is a newer, and slightly larger version, but blows 100 CFM.

AllergyBuyersClub conducted favorable testing, finding particulate efficiency of 99.8% at 0.3 microns on the first pass.

1100's 24 gauge cold rolled steel frame weighs a bit over 6 pounds, and it's size is small enough to carry on.

The price is $300, just $60 higher than the smaller version.

Amaircare 1100 True-HEPA at Amazon.com.

Best wishes,

Ed

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